LAS VEGAS — He is a man of many nicknames — Buddy Fresh, Buddy Love — but Buddy Hield wants one to stick this week in the NBA summer league.
“It’s Buddy Buckets tomorrow,” Hield said Saturday night after the New Orleans Pelicans wrapped a practice session in preparation for their second summer league game, set for Sunday night against the Utah Jazz.
That particular moniker didn’t apply in Friday’s opener, in which Hield scored 13 points and shot a self-described “horrible” 5-for-20 in an 85-65 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. On Saturday, he watched film of himself looking hurried and got up some jump shots.
“This is what summer league’s for,” Hield said after the game, with a smile he wore for most of a late-night interview session. “It’s for me to get better.”
There’s nowhere to go but up after Friday night. But the opener had value for Hield, the 6-foot-4 rookie from Oklahoma, who likely got a taste of what NBA defenses have in store for him.
The Lakers pressed up on Hield, playing him tight and pushing him as far away from the basket as possible. Hield built his college reputation as a 3-point shooter, and the message from the Lakers was clear: If you want to score, put the ball on the floor.
Hield managed to get into the lane several times, often for drop-off passes that didn’t lead to assists. But dribble penetration isn’t his strength, and it showed. He couldn’t consistently get by his man.
“That’s something he wants to work on,” said Pelicans assistant Robert Pack, the team’s summer league head coach. “We’ve even talked about it. It’s a good test for him. It’s a good example of the way people will probably play him, because he can shoot so well. That’s something that he’ll put the effort, get in the gym, we’ll work on it and he’ll be better.”
Hield played well without the ball, especially in the second half. He showed flashes of understanding how to use screens — an area where Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry has said he’ll need to improve to contribute early — and found some good shots, though they rarely fell.
“I thought he got some good looks,” Pack said. “Some were short, for whatever reason. We know Buddy’s a good shooter. We’ll take some of those shots he got tonight every night. He also had some where he got a little antsy, but he’ll settle down.”
Hield was convinced of that. He planned to watch film Saturday and expected that he would find that he looked “hurried” and that he “rushed shots” in a game that he admitted was “a lot faster than I thought it would be.”
“It’s just so frantic,” Hield said.
His hope was to settle down and get up “a ton of shots.”
“I’m not worrying a bit. I know I’m a confident guy,” he said. “I’ve just got to watch film and just learn from it. That’s all I can do — watch film and learn from it and next game be more patient and just get back in rhythm.”
Hield wasn’t alone in his lack of concern. Hours before the game, Gentry said, “I’m not going to get overly excited if (Hield) gets 30 tonight, and I’m not going to get overly excited if he goes 3-for-17, either.”
Hield was closer to the latter Friday. He went to work Saturday to make sure he was better Sunday.
He watched film early in the day, and the Pelicans practiced Saturday night.
And Sunday is a new day.
“This is a bad first start, bad first impression for everybody to see me, but it is what it is,” Hield said. “Stuff like this motivates me each and every day to drive me to be the best.”